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19 Apr 2011

The Secret Recipe Club and a cloudlike fluffy cake

Just like cotton Chiffon cake

This is the first of hopefully a long list of posts.
Few weeks ago through the Yahoo-group foodbloggers Amanda of Amanda's Cookin made us think about how many people actually tried our recipes leaving perhaps a comment with a feedback on our posts.
Many of us felt the same in affirming that we love when this happens, we do this for you guys after all; we do enjoy our food but the ultimate word is spoken from our guests and readers. I guess this is a special application of the old saying "If a tree falls in a deserted forest would it still make a noise?".

With our posts we often don't do anything else than throwing a pebble out there in the big lake of news, ranting, opinions and recipes. Sometimes we ourselves are attraced by one of these same pebbles shining through the "increspata" surface of this lake so to pick it up and add our special touch to it before sending it back. There are way too many pebbles on this lake's bed and some gets out of sight pretty easily so it is nice when we have that special pair of goggles that allows us to isolate a group of them from the rest.
Amanda helped us in doing just this by setting a new monthly bloging event: "The Secret Recipe Club".

What does it consists of? Each month the memebers of the club get assigned a blog belonging to one of the other members from which he/she has to choose a recipe to repropose in his/her own blog with total freedom of adaptation naturally.
I knew this was going to be fun, I like events involving random picking of sources, ingredients, recipes; it adds up to the fun, dont you think?

For this month I got assigned Avanika's "Yumsilicious Bakes".
As the name says, Avanika's blog consists mostly of baked goods and sweet treats so it was going to be difficult to pick up one recipe. Why difficult?
As you might have realised browsing through these pages, I am not such a sweet tooth. Though I often need something sweet, I am very picky on the sweetness of my desserts: more flavours less sweet, that's my motto.
Furthermore, Avanika's recipes are actually quite simple, straightforward and interesting so to make the choice even more difficult.
For this challenge then I was looking for something that could catch my immagination and I found it in Avanika's Just-like-Cotton Chiffon Cake.

Just like cotton Chiffon cake

This cake indeed delivers what it promises: a fluffy cloud of irresistible softness; it isn't too sweet or eggy but it is also a little tricky to get it right.

Chiffon cakes usually feature oil as fat ingredient and thoroughly mix the wet ingredients with the dry one as first step, the whipped egg whites are then added and the cake is baked.
This cotton'-like cake uses much less flour than a regular chiffon cake and so needs more gluten to support its structure. Starting by making a panade consisting of milk, oil, sugar and flour ensures then enough gluten developement.
With this procedure this Chiffon cakes is a funny crossing between a pate-à-choux and a soufflée. Ahhh the wonders of eggs are endless!

Just like cotton Chiffon cake

Because of this lack of bulk structure, this cake is also quite fragile. As with Angel-Food cake, you are instructed to use an ungreased pan so to give the batter something to cling on while raising as well as to avoid that the butter would collapse some of the egg foam on the cake's outside.
The cake is baked in a moderately low oven and it rises just like a souffle (I used a 25cm tube pan and also if it was filled by less than 1/2, the cake almost spilled over when baking).
The oven temperature is another tricky problem. The batter is quite fragile for the lack of flour so any big difference in temperature in different parts of your oven (front vs. back) might cause uneaven rise or a hollow cake or even a cake collapsing in some portion more than in other (as it happened to me). The cake is still quite light and delicious to eat, though funky to put on the dinner table (think of a roller-coasters kinda profile).

Another tricky part of this cake is the flavouring. Being so soft and light you are bound to use delicate aromas in the paste, and lots of them too. The starting panade gets diluted quite a lot by the egg whites and the big oven-rise increases furthermore the cake volume, diluting this way each flavorings you have used from the start. As with souffle then, this batter needs to be heavily "seasoned".

I would expect this cake to work pretty well when flavoured using herbs, in effect the original one used lemon zest; I won't use solids like nuts or dried fruits since they might sink to the bottom due to its light structure. Naturally spices works perfectly in it, especially if steeped with the milk while dooing the panade.

In my interpretation I used orange blossom's water and extra-vergin olive oil to flavour the cake. The olive oil isn't really perceivable but I think it gives a fuller body to the cake flavour profile, that would lack if using a flavourless vegetable oil. The orange blossoms come throug quite shyily as if brought by the summer wind.
Tanks also to the egg yolks, this cake is rich enough to stand up to some fruits to be served with it; tangy light dairy products make also a perfect accompaniment to it. After letting the cake rest for a few hours, I deciced to taste a slice of it so to pick my garnishes and decided tp serve it over a salpicon of diced apples and creme fraiche, with marinated apple slices and their spiced simple syrup.

So here you are my interpreatation for this cotton-like chiffon cake.

Just like cotton Chiffon cake

Like-Cotton-Chiffon cake à la nage served with marinated apple slices
  • 55 g fresh milk
  • 50 g extra-virgin olive oil
  • 40 g sugar
  • 60 g plain flour

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3-4 tsps orange blossom's water
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar or few drops of lemon juice
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 60 g sugar

  • 1/2cup water
  • 2tbsp sugar
  • 2 cardamom pods, bruised and opened
  • ca 1/2tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • Few drops of lemon juice
  • apples
  • creme fraiche or thick yogurt
  • Dill, tarragon, basil en chiffonade (optional)

In a small sauce pan gather the milk, olive oil and sugar for the panade. Bring to a simmer stirring to ensure that the sugar is melted. At this point take the saucepan out of the fire and dump the flour all at once in the simmering liquid and whisk energetically to create a paste. Let the panade cool down before proceeding, transfering it to a new wide bowl will speed up the process.
Warm up the oven to 160 C [320 F].
In a standing mixer, whip the egg whites with the salt and the cream of tartar adding the sugar little at a time. Whip until they become nice and glossy and form stiff but moist peaks.
Whisk the egg yolks, on at a time, into the panade adding also the orange blossom's water. When the egg-whites will be ready, whisk one third of them into the panade to lighten it up and then fold the rest of them into it in two or three batches.
Tha batter will increase considerably of volume so you may either start by mixing the panade and yolks in a big enough bowl or complete the folding process in the mixer bowl when the batter is about to spill over from its container.
Grease and flour just the bottom of a tube pan leaving the sides ungreased. Transfer the batter into the pan delicately tapping it on the counter to release eventual bigger bubbles. Bake for 30-35minuts or until a tootpick inserted into the cake will come out clean.
Once ready, invert the tube pan balancing it over a cup, tomato tin or a jar so to let the cake cool upside down (if it has to deflate it will despite gravity unfortunately).

In the meantime prepare the garnishes. In a small saucepan gather the water and the sugar meant for the syrup, add the bruised cardamom pods and bring to a simmer. Add the chinese rice wine and take the syrup of the fire. Let it cool down slightly.
Cut thin wedges from the apples counting 4-5 of them per person and add them to the syrup to marinate. Cover with clingfilm and leave the syrup and apples come to room temperature with the cake.

When you are ready to serve, dice one apple and combine it with some creme fraiche or thick yogurt. This salpicon will constitute the tampon or basement over which you will place the cake and that will prevent it to soak up all the syrup.
Place one or two spoonfulls of salpicon in the bottom of a wide bowled plate flattening it out and giving it a shape wide enough to host the slice of cake.
Place the cake over is basement, season the syrup with the lemon juice and pour 1-2 tbsps of it around the salpicon. Decorate with the marinated apple slices and few threads of the herbs.

Just like cotton Chiffon cake

To join the Secret Recipe Club, click here.


  1. So beautiful! I'm new to the group so did not participate this month but can't wait to be a part of it.

  2. Sounds wonderful Alessio, and the photos are so beautiful!

  3. Mmmm, looks great and your photos are always fantastic!

  4. Wow, this was a bit of an quest. It looks lovely, if a little involved. I do love the light airy texture of angel food cake.

  5. Gorgeous! So beautifully presented!!

  6. Almost looks too pretty to eat. Nice job!

  7. great idea on the group! beautiful photos :)

  8. the wonderful egg! I could live on them! :) this cake looks like a cloud!

  9. i signed up for this group today. Your cake looks great and I am not a big sweet eater either.

  10. Thanks for sharing this lovely cake with us Ale. I'm happy to attest to its wonderful lightness and subtle sweetness, just perfect. First time I started with desert and only regret not helping myself again before S got his hands on the rest of it! J.

  11. Alessio, please check my blog for some announcements - Hearty congrats in advance :) very well deserved :))

  12. Love your take on this cloud-like beautiful cake. Your photographs add to the whole story-amazing!